Sunday, 21 January 2018

5e: Fifth Edition Fallout News - Fall Britannia Lore added to wiki!

As I mentioned back in November, I've been developing a homebrew setting for use with my Fifth Edition Fallout rules. The setting is called Fall Britannia, and takes a look at what the post-apocalyptic remnants of the United Kingdom might look like in the Fallout universe.

Fall Britannia logo © RDD Wilkin / Spilled Ale Studios. Personal use permitted. Do not redistribute.


Although still a work in progress, I decided to update the Fifth Edition Fallout Wiki with all the setting lore I've created so far. This is chiefly because I intend to set the one-shot live play game, as well as any future games I might choose to stream, in this new part of Fallout's world. Specifically, in The Smoke—or London, to us. Since the time to run the live play is creeping very close now (only 115 followers to go to reach the target!), now seemed as good a time as any to flesh out my notes and share them. This way, my players will have access to some lore when creating their characters, and anyone who watches the stream can look into the lore for a bit of background context.

You can therefore start exploring Fall Britannia right now if you want to be caught up before the game, if you might like to GM in the setting yourself, or if you're simply curious about what's different! Visit the Fall Britannia index page, or simply use the wiki's navigation bar to explore the Fall Britannia section.

Lore added to the wiki currently includes sections on pre-War history; pre-War brands; wasteland factions; notes on which species are present including a new species, the dearg dubh; equipment; and guidance on which creatures from the Fifth Edition Fallout bestiary might appear in Fallen Britain.

Newman's Atomic Iron Brew, a soft drink in Fallen Britain. Logo © RDD Wilkin / Spilled Ale Studios. Personal use permitted. Do not redistribute.


Radsquirrels

Fall Britannia naturally has its own mutant creatures in addition to the many creatures from the core rules that can also be found in Fallen Britain. I've already statted out a small number of these new foes.

Truth be told, I wasn't planning to add any to the wiki just yet as I thought it might be better to keep them under wraps so they'd remain a surprise in the event I use them in my streamed game. However, apparently January 21st is Squirrel appreciation day, so how could I not honour the little critters by sharing the statblocks for radsquirrels!

Check them out here!

Radsquirrels appear all over Fallen Britain (and I see no reason you couldn't add them to games set in North America).

Resource Update

I've also updated the resources section of the navbar to include links to some very useful tools:

NUKEMAP is an excellent resource if, like me, you are considering running Fifth Edition Fallout outside of any of the canonical settings, or want to develop an at least sort-of-believable setting for any other game set in a post-nuclear apocalypse. By placing a number of nuke locations and setting factors such as nuclear yield, wind direction, and wind speed, you can model the theoretical impact of those nukes. It's extremely useful, not to mention rather interesting to experiment with (but also downright terrifying).

Visit wizardawn's post-apocalyptic section to find generators for post-apocalyptic maps and scavenged items. On the bottom left of the page you'll also see a section entitled "Supplements" that has an extremely handy PDF of tables for randomly generating wasteland garbage.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

5e: Fifth Edition Fallout News - Wiki and Live Stream!

I have two major Fifth Edition Fallout updates to announce! Okay, technically I announced both on twitter already, so some of my readers will already be aware. But do you know how little visibility an individual tweet gets? And not all of you follow me on twitter (though maybe you should! Especially if you're a Fifth Edition Fallout fan... but we'll get to that!).

The Fifth Edition Fallout Wiki is live!

It took a lot of work, but I got there. Everything from the current version of the PDF is now online. Furthermore, the wiki has some rules updates and corrections as well as monster statblocks that have yet to be added to the PDF, including: the Courier player background, updated power armour rules, Anglers, Fog Crawlers, Geckos, Ghoul Whales, Giant Catfish, Gulpers, Hermit Crabs, and Rad-Dolphins!

I will endeavour to get these things updated in the PDF as soon as possible, but I'd like to completely finish the beast statblocks before pushing out a new update. For the time being, the wiki is your most up-to-date resource for Fifth Edition Fallout.

Find the Fifth Edition Fallout Wiki here!

Fifth Edition Fallout Live Play

I'm approaching 1,000 followers on twitter! I've been thinking that when I reach that milestone, I'll celebrate by inviting five followers to join me for a one-shot roll20 game of Fifth Edition Fallout.

I also hope to stream the game and record it for the benefit of those who can't watch live. I'm very new to the world of streaming, but hopefully I can get it all figured out by the time the game actually happens.

I have a few of Fifth Edition Fallout's biggest fans in mind to invite to the one shot, but they likely won't fill out the entire 5 slots, especially given the likelihood of incompatible time zones. The slots I can't fill with invitations will be opened to my twitter followers. So if you'd like a chance to get in on the game, or simply want to see it happen, go follow me on twitter if you haven't already!

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

5e: The Wages of Sin, Part I

I know I already said this last week, but Happy New Year! Have any of you made a resolution to kick the habit of one of your worst indulgences? I know I could certainly stand to eat less and exercise more. Gluttony and sloth are no doubt highest on my list of sins.

It's such sins that are the topic of today's article: as a creative exercise, I'll be creating new types of devil themed around the Seven Deadly Sins.

Content Warning

Note that due to the subject matter of the article (devils in general and sins such as lust) it may stray into territory that could be inappropriate for younger readers or make an older reader uncomfortable depending on their beliefs and sensibilities. Please bear that in mind before deciding whether to continue reading.

The Seven Deadly Sins

I'd honestly be surprised if any of my audience need a primer on what exactly the Seven Deadly Sins are, but you know what they say about making assumptions. If this section is useful to you, fantastic. If not, please feel free to skip ahead!

The Deadly Sins are also known as Capital Vices or Cardinal Sins. They are the worst, broadly-defined vices from which other more specific immoralities spring. They can be considered abuses of a person's natural passions (such as one's desire to eat, when taken to extremes, becoming gluttony).

The Seven Deadly Sins are:

  • Avarice: Also known as Greed or Covetousness. A desire for material (and therefore spiritually insignificant) possessions.
  • Gluttony: A wasteful desire, gluttony is consumption in excess beyond the point of benefit. The target of the desire may be an essential of life such as food or water, or possibly consumed for pleasure.
  • Envy: The envious desire what they do not have, and may or may not deserve, instead of focusing on what they do possess and finding the positives in that.
  • Lust: Also known as Lechery. A potent desire, usually for physical, sexual acts. However, lust can be considered an intense, unwholesome longing for any kind of activity or reward.
  • Pride: Arrogance or excessive sense of self-importance, superiority over others. Considered by most the original Sin from whence even the other six cardinal sins have sprung.
  • Sloth: Indifference to duties, whether they be to the Gods, society, or the care of others or self.
  • Wrath:Feelings of anger, rage, hatred, and vengeance.

In the past, other sins included Acedia (neglecting to do things that need doing) and Vainglory (unjustified boasting), but these were ultimately absorbed into other sins (Sloth and Pride, respectively).

Hell's Ultimate Sinners

While researching this article, I wondered if the Lords of Hell could be clearly mapped to the Deadly Sins. The answer turned out to be only in some cases. While sometimes an Archdevil is clearly associated more closely with one of the Sins above others, this isn't always so obvious. And in any case, the Lords of Hell are complex creatures and the masses of lore that exists for each of them clearly demonstrate each of them are personally guilty of multiple sins if not all of them. As the most cunning devils in the Nine Hells they would certainly be happy to exploit those sins in others.

Therefore, the Sin Devils that are the subject of this article series could reasonably be found in the service of any Archdevil. For what it's worth though, here's a list of the sins that seem most obviously associated with the various Lords. You might also consider this list when planning adventures or campaigns themed around one or more of the sins to decide which Archdevil might ultimately be behind events.

Archdevil Primary Sins
Asmodeus Pride, Avarice
Mephistopholes Avarice, Envy
Baalzebul Avarice, Pride, Wrath
Glasya Pride, Wrath
Levistus Lust, Pride
Fierna Envy, Lust
Belial Avarice, Lust, Pride
Mammon Avarice, Gluttony, Lust
Dispater Sloth
Bel Avarice, Wrath


Creating Sin Devils

This week I'm going to create two of the Sin Devils: avarice and wrath. There's no particular order here (other than I think Pride needs to be done last, as I see them as the most powerful kind so need to know what the CRs of the others will be). These are just the two I happened to start thinking about first! Next time I'll do two more, and in the third post of the series I'll round out the list with the final three.

Sin Devils are going to be a subgroup of devilkind, each of the seven types of which themed around one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Naturally this means that even of the seven Sin Devils will possess either spellcasting, special abilities, or both themed around their particular Sin. Before I get started, I also want to think about what makes a devil from a mechanical point of view, and where the Sin Devils fit into the hierarchy of the Nine Hells.

Devilish Traits

Looking through the Monster Manual, we can derive the following commonalities that evidence suggests should be possessed by all devils. These are traits that should also therefore be included in the statblocks of the Sin Devils created during this exercise. Unless, that is, there's a good reason to override them (for instance, an Ice Devil has Cold immunity whereas normally devils have Cold Resistance).

  • Damage Immunities fire, poison
  • Damage Resistances cold; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks that aren’t silvered
  • Condition Immunities poisoned
  • Senses darkvision 120 ft. Some greater devils may have truesight 120 ft. instead.
  • Languages Infernal, Common. All devils more powerful than an Imp have telepathy 120 ft. (which replaces Common).
  • Devil's Sight Magical Darkness doesn't impede the devil's darkvision (if it has any).
  • Magic Resistance The devil has advantage on saving throw against spells and other magical effects.
  • As potently magical creatures, devils generally either possess innate spellcasting (the only example of this is the Pit Fiend, which might suggest spellcasting is generally reserved for more powerful devils), or else unique special abilities that are overtly magical in nature. In the case of the Sin Devils I'm creating, it makes sense to theme spell choices and special abilities around the devil's particular Sin.
  • Even the powerful Pit Fiend only has four special traits, including its Magic Resistance as noted above. Keeping a cap on how many abilities a monster has is a good principle for any kind of creature, but particularly for non-legendary monsters which are expected to be encountered in groups. I'll try to stick to a four special trait maximum where I can. I might need to bend this rule, but will try to make sure that if I do most of the creature's special features are simple to adjudicate or don't apply in combat.
  • I'm going to make a similar commitment to trying to keep a Sin Devil's available action options straightforward, aiming for no more than two types of special action in addition to its regular attacks and multitattack options.

Sin Devils and the Infernal Hierarchy

When creating a new devil, it's necessary to consider where they fit into Hell's structured society. We already know that they're not Archdevils, but are they Lesser Devils or Greater Devils? And within that bracket, where do they slot in?

Given I'm choosing to theme these new devils around the cardinal sins, that suggests to me that they will be among the most effective tempters of mortals when it comes to their specific domain. In turn, that suggests that a Sin Devil is probably one of the most profitable forms to be granted, and therefore highly coveted. This chain of thought leads me to think the Sin Devils should be considered Greater Devils, and furthermore that they are likely among the more powerful.

The lowest CR of Greater Devil we have as a point of reference is the CR 11 Horned Devil. The CR 20 Pit Fiends are considered the generals of the Nine Hells, about as powerful as a devil can be without being an Archdevil. In between the two we have the CR 12 Erinyes and the CR 14 Ice Devil.

I think we need to pitch the Sin Devils around CR 15. It doesn't matter if they don't all turn out to be CR 15 exactly. In fact, from a design point of view it would be nice for each type to come out at a different CR and for at least some of those CRs to not yet be represented (eg. 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, and 19). At the same time, I don't want the CR range to be too wide, since that would suggest those Sins with more powerful servitors have significantly higher importance (the exception being Pride, as noted below). A difference of 3 or 4 is probably good, so let's say CR 13-16. This range demonstrates the power of the Sin Devils while protecting the dominance of the Pit Fiend.

Pride is the first among Sins, so it makes sense to me that Pride Devils be the most powerful variety of Sin Devil. If the rest of the Sin Devils are pitched to fall between CR 13-16, then the Pride Devil ought to be one higher than the highest CR among the others, up to CR 17.

The Role of a Sin Devil

So what, exactly, does a Sin Devil do? Since we know that a single deadly sin is at the very core of such a devil's existence, then it stands to reason that its role is to tempt other creatures into falling to that sin. If that's true, then we can reason that rather than serving the Lords of Hell on Baator itself, Sin Devils generally interact with denizens of the material plane, tempting mortals in the name of their Archdevil patron. As well as testing the willpower of individuals, both when summoned and uninvited, a Sin Devil also forms cults in the name of their Lord. As well as creating such cults, they are generally the face and voice of their Archdevil patron to that cult until such a time the cultists are deemed worthy of a personal appearance. Belial, for example, relies on Lust Devils to act as his vassal among orgiastic sex cults. Bel is so busy commanding Hell's armies in the Blood War he has little time to create cults, but loyal Wrath Devils do so in his name.

Sin Devils prefer to work alone, but owing to the narrow scope of their powers the Archdevils they serve may sometimes order them to act in groups or to alternate responsibilities. For instance, Mammon often pairs Avarice Devils and Lust Devils to serve his needs among his cults, whose members often revel in both greed and lechery.

The position of Sin Devil is coveted, and if performed well richly rewarded. While not as powerful as a Pit Fiend in literal terms, from a practical standpoint a Sin Devil may be as important a servant to an Archdevil as a general of their armies. Military might is only one measure of a Lord of Hell's power, after all. The number of mortal souls corrupted in their name can ultimately cement an Archdevil's standing and decide their aeons-old conflicts.

The exact status of a Sin Devil in the hierarchy of their Archdevil's court probably depends on the Archdevil.

For example, Bel is so busy commanding Hell's forces in the Blood War that he has far less influence on the material plane. He will have far more Pit Fiends in his service than he will Sin Devils, and those Pit Fiends probably have greater political influence. However, the few Sin Devils that do serve Bel (many of which are likely Wrath Devils) are so rare that they are also precious. While they may not serve as Bel's closest confidants, his Sin Devils most certainly enjoy a protected status. Any rivals, including Pit Fiends, would think twice before taking action against one, for fear of incurring Bel's wrath.

Devils better known for corruption of mortals likely employ as many or more Sin Devils than than they do Pit Fiends. In these cases Sin Devils enjoy greater political influence, but as individuals they are more expendable, easily replaced on their Lord or Lady's whim.

Due to their long history with their Lord and their current comfortable position within the hierarchy, a Sin Devil generally tends to be loyal. However, it is also a position that invites temptation. A Sin Devil has unprecedented access to mortals in their Lord's name. An ambitious Sin Devil can create their own cults, if they are able to hide such activity from their Lord. Theoretically, a Sin Devil could gather enough influence to unseat their Lord and claim their seat, though it is a strategy that requires great patience and incredible risk.

Any other type of Greater Devil can be transformed into a Sin Devil. Theoretically a Lesser Devil can become a Sin Devil, but it is usually a reward reserved for more powerful and loyal servants.

Making the Avarice Devil

When thinking about the appearance of the Avarice Devil, I immediately pictured a humanoid festooned in glittering riches. Multiple grasping arms sprang to mind, too. I decided to go with my first instincts, and also to add physical elements from one of the birds associated with thieving sparkling items (members of the corvid family). Since "magpie" doesn't immediately scream terror, I opted to go with a crow which is at least associated with horror elements.

Avarice Made Manifest

This creature needs one or two unique features that really speak to its theme.

First, I know I want the avarice devil's to have a power that lets it inspire material greed. The consequences of that greed need to be translated into the game mechanics to have effectiveness during a combat encounter. It strikes me that it would be interesting to have that power be an aura, the effects of which would debuff potential attackers. Here's what I came up with:

Aura of Covetousness.

Any creature that starts its turn within 20 feet of the avarice devil must make a DC ?? Wisdom saving throw, unless the wrath devil is incapacitated or the devil chooses to omit them from the aura, which it always does for its allies. On a failed save, a target becomes obsessed with a physical object the avarice devil chooses that belongs to the nearest creature other than the avarice devil that the target can see. While so obsessed, the target has disadvantage on all attack rolls and ability checks that don't help it acquire the object of its obsession. In addition it is so distracted that attack rolls against it have advantage, and it has disadvantage on its own saving throws. An affected creature may repeat its saving throw at the end of each of its turns. If a creature's saving throw is successful, the creature is immune to the avarice devil's Aura of Covetousness for the next 24 hours.

The theme of avarice also lends itself to the idea of taking things that don't really belong to you. Theft, in other words. It makes sense therefore that the avarice devil can frustrate PCs by taking things from them... and then using those items against them. This is obviously an ability that will make the avarice devil loathed by players! That's the right emotional response but we need to be careful this ability isn't an unavoidable gotcha since nobody likes having their cool toy taken. The success chances of the ability should be weighted in the target's favour. Players should also know this feature exists and be given the opportunity to ready themselves for it, but that's a matter of DM advice (see the Avarice Devils and Theft from Players sidebar) rather than a matter of mechanical concern.

Here's how I've expressed this ability:

Covetous Grasp (recharge 5-6).

The avarice devil makes an melee attack with disadvantage using a free hand, for which it has a +? attack bonus. On a hit, the avarice devil magically steals one object the target is either wielding or wearing on their person. The stolen object disappears from the target and reappears in the equivalent location on the avarice devil's own body. If an avarice devil is already wearing or carrying an item in a particular location (such as a belt on its waist, a crown on its head, or a weapon in a hand), the avarice devil cannot steal an object that would fill it. The avarice devil can immediately begin using any features of an item it steals that don't require attunement. A sentient item that is compatible with the avarice devil's alignment and objectives and prefers the devil to its previous wielder relaxes its attunement requirement, allowing the avarice devil to attune immediately.

While this is a very nasty feature, some defense of the player and their item is built in (note that it is always rolled with disadvantage). The avarice devil can offset the disadvantage by using its Covetous Grasp against a target currently affected by its Aura of Covetousness, making for a rough combo.

My first draft of this feature prevented the avarice devil from using any attuned feature, but the more I thought about it, I liked the narrative possibilities of an avarice devil stealing an intelligent evil item and the item deciding to betray its previous owner in favour of a more evil, more powerful creature.

Proficiency

As a Greater Devil, the avarice devil probably has a Proficiency of +4 or greater. I'll assume a +4 for now, and make adjustments as necessary later.

Movement

I can't think of a compelling reason to give the avarice devil a special movement mode. As a medium creature it has a walking speed of 30 ft.

Abilities

The most important ability for any Sin Devil, as consummate tempters, is going to be Charisma. All Greater Devils are intelligent, for they are cunning creatures. Sin Devils especially need to be cunning to trick mortals into forfeiting their souls. Wisdom should be reasonably high, since a Sin Devil cannot afford to be the one who comes out the worst of an exchange with a potential victim.

For an avarice devil, the most important physical ability score is Dexterity (it's a devil associated with sneakiness and theft), but Strength and Constitution aren't particularly significant. It can use its Dexterity for its attacks.

I go with my gut and assign the abilities as I see fit, coming up with the following array:

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
14 (+2) 22 (+6) 15 (+2) 22 (+6) 20 (+5) 24 (+7)


Skills

I feel it's important that Sin Devils add their proficiency to Deception, Persuasion, and Insight. As tricksters, they need to be as well equipped as the rules allow them to be to do their jobs. I considered adding Intimidation to that list, but most Sin Devils would only use Intimidation to remind someone already in their clutches of their place. It won't come up often, and a +7 to that check is pretty good to start with. Intimidation might be appropriate for the wrath and pride devils, but I don't see a strong enough case for the avarice devil.

Saving Throws

Sin devils are Greater Devils almost on par with a Pit Fiend. They deserve a few strong saves. I opted to give them Dexterity, Constitution, and Wisdom to protect them from most of the common threats a higher level party might throw at a Greater Devil.

Resistances, Immunities, and Vulnerabilities

There's no case for giving the avarice devil any unique exceptions here. They can have same resistances and immunities as other devils.

Senses and Languages

Certain powerful devils such as the Erinyes (CR 14) and Pit Fiend (CR 20) have Truesight instead of Darkvision. Given I'm designing the sin devils to be on par with these creatures, it makes sense to give my sin devils truesight 120 ft. too. It fits thematically, too. Good luck escaping the gaze of a sin devil once it has you in its grasp! This decision means they needn't possess the Devil's Sight feature.

As for languages, sin devils are easily powerful enough to possess telepathy 120 ft. in addition to Infernal.

Other Special Features

In addition to its Aura of Covetousness, the avarice devil has Magic Resistance and Magic Weapons in common with other devils. This makes for a total of three special features. I could add a fourth, but I already know that the avarice devil has at least one special attack action. In the interests of keeping the statblock streamlined, I'll leave it at that.

Actions

As a high CR creature, the avarice devil is going to have multiattack. I've already decided it has six arms, so that's a good number. With that many attacks per round, it's likely that I'll be looking to give the avarice devil lower damage attacks, whereas if I'd opted to have fewer I'd be designing attacks that pack a big punch.

But what kind of attacks? Firstly, a theme of grasping and theft has been present throughout this design and that makes me think of nets. I decide that it carries a net in one of its hands. But, since this is a devil, the net is both stronger and cruelly barbed.

Barbed adamantine-weave net.

Melee Weapon Attack: +12 to hit, range 5/15 ft., one target. Hit: A Large or smaller creature hit by the net is restrained until it is freed. The net has no effect on creatures that are formless, or creatures that are Huge or larger. While restrained, a creature takes 5 (1d10) piercing damage at the beginning of each of its turns. A creature can use its action to make a DC 15 Strength check, freeing itself or another creature within its reach on a success, but causing that creature to take 11 (2d10) piercing damage as the barbs are pulled free. A DC 20 Dexterity check made by the creature within the net frees it without incurring any damage.

Dealing 10 slashing damage to the net (AC 15) also frees the creature, but results in 11 (2d10) piercing damage to the creature. The net is also destroyed, but can be repaired by the avarice devil over the course of a short rest. The net is resistant to nonmagical damage.

I based this on the standard net, but increased the escape DC, AC, and hit points to represent its greater weight and bulk.

If the avarice devil is throwing nets at people, jabbing weapons start to look sensible, so I looked into the option of equipping it with spears. However, its claws will use its high Dex for attack and damage and its spears will use its far inferior Strength. In the end, it's hard to see why it would pick the spears over its own natural weapons so I decided to abandoned that idea.

Therefore I decide that the remaining five hands are unarmed, and it uses them to make claw attacks dealing 1d4 damage each (+6 from its Dex mod). It also makes sense to me that the avarice devil can substitute one of its claw attacks out to use its Covetous Grasp as part of a multiattack action.

The final multiattack entry looks like this:

Multiattack.

The avarice devil makes one attack with its barbed net, and as many claw attacks as it has empty hands (normally five). It may substitute its covetous grasp for one of its claw attacks.

Putting it together: Offensive Challenge Rating

I know enough now I can start working out where this creature fits. Damage per round is calculated based on the maximum damage a monster can deal over the first three round. For the sake of calculating its damage per round, we'll assume the avarice devil hits with its barbed net and that the target fails to escape from the net until the third round. This means we also need to factor in the automatic damage it receives when it escapes the net.

In the first round, the avarice devil deals the following average damages with its attacks: 7 (the barbed net), and 40 (its 8 claw damage multiplied by 5). Total: 47

In the second round, the avarice devil deals 48 damage (its 8 claw damage multiplied by 6) and a further 5 damage to the target trapped by its net. Total: 53

In the third round, the avarice devil deals 48 damage (its 8 claw damage multiplied by 6) and a further 5 damage to the target trapped by its net, and that creature causes itself to take 11 damage when it breaks free. Total: 64

(47 + 53 + 64) / 3 = 54. Referring to Monster Statistics by Challenge Rating on page 274 of the Dungeon Master's Guide, we can see that as it stands the avarice devil's offensive challenge rating (hereafter referred to as its OCR) is 8.

However, we know its attack bonus is +10 (proficiency +4 +6 from its Dex), and the attack bonus listed for a CR 8 creature is +7. For every +2 by which a monster's CR exceeds the expected attack bonus, its OCR increase by 1. Presently, there's a difference of +3. But the avarice devil's Aura of Covetousness is a factor in its offensive ability.

The avarice devil makes attacks against the victim of its Aura with advantage, which is similar to Pack Tactics, which the Monster Features table on page 281 tells us increases the monster's effective attack bonus by 1. Technically, the Aura also grants this benefit to the avarice devil's allies, but unlike Pack Tactics it can be thwarted by a save so for now let's treat them as roughly equivalent. It's also worth noting that the avarice devil can also cause similar results with its net, but that's specific to one target and we can expect the net to be destroyed fairly quickly. If we need to later on, we can err on the side of caution and adjust the avarice devil up to account for the benefits of its Aura and net.

For now, then, we're treating the devil's attack bonus as +11, raising its OCR from 8 to 10. The target CR range is 13-16, so that means one of two things: either its defensive challenge rating (hereafter referred to as DCR) has to 16 or higher so that its final challenge rating averages out within the target range, or we need to increase its OCR.

Let's look at the first option.

Putting it together: Defensive Challenge Rating

Before I figure out how many hp the devil would need to have to get a DCR of 16, I'm going to look at how its various features adjust its DCR.

Firstly, damage resistances and immunities: with four resistances, we need to factor those into the calculation. Since there are only two immunities, which are both easily bypassed, it should be enough to adjust for the resistances only. For a creature of CR 13-16, the monster's hit points should be multiplied by 1.25.

The devil has magic resistance, which the Monster Features table tells us is equivalent to a +2 AC.

Finally, the Aura of Covetousness can cause disadvantage on attacks rolls for the devil's enemies. The closest equivalency I could find between this and a Monster Feature is Superior Invisibility. The Invisible condition grants advantage on a creature's attack rolls and disadvantage on attack rolls against the creature. That's pretty similar to what the Aura is doing. Thus, the Aura is treated as a further +2 to AC.

The devil's Dexterity bonus is +6 and I've not given it a natural armour bonus, so its actual AC is 16 while its effective AC is 20. A monster's final DCR is adjusted upward by 1 for every 2 by which its effective AC exceeds the listed AC for its hit points.If I want to make sure the devil's DCR is 16, that means I need for its effective hit points (including that 1.25 multiplier for its resistances) land it squarely on DCR 14, since it will be adjusted up twice.

We can work backward from this: The listed hp range for CR 14 is 266-280. To know what the monster's actual hit points should be, we simply need to figure out a number that is lower than that range and that when multiplied by a quarter of itself arrives at a total in the range.

By a little trial and error I arrive at 220, which divided by 4 is 55. 220 + 55 = 275, squarely in the CR 14 range. 220 is also at the extreme top edge of CR 10. It also seems like a reasonable amount of hit points for a powerful, boss-type monster. Based on that, I decide to stick with the decision to aim for a DCR of 16 rather than increasing the monster's OCR.

The trick now is to figure out how to arrive at 220 hit points (or close enough to 220 hit points). As a medium creature, the avarice devil would use d8 hit dice. The average of each die is 4.5, and its Con mod for each of those dice is +2. Each die is therefore worth 6.5 hit points.

To figure out roughly the right number of hit dice for this creature, I divide my optimal target (220) by 6.5, for a result of 33.8.

Obviously there needs to be a whole number of Hit Dice. I also know that I shouldn't really increase the Hit Dice by rounding up, because 220 was already the maximum amount within the target range. So I try rounding down to 33, and multiply 33 by 6.5 for a result of 214.5. That rounds down to 214.

Now to check if everything still works out:

  • Firstly, 214 is still within the CR 10 hit point range.
  • Second, I multiply it by 1.25 for a result of 267.5 (again, rounded down to 267).
  • Finally, I check what CR is associated with the hp range that 267 falls into and find that it is high enough to still be considered CR 14.
  • Since that's true, the monster's AC adjustments will increase its final DCR to 16 as planned!

Great! Now we know that our monster has 214 average hit points (which is equivalent to 33d8 plus 33 times its +2 Con modifier, eg: 66).

A final note: as nasty as it could potentially be, Covetous Grasp is not factored into the monster's CR. It is impossible to predict what effects that this feature will have on a fight, if indeed there are any. Even when the monster is able to steal a useful item from the player, it does sacrifice some of its own damage to do so, and it may not succeed in its attempt. Finally, we need to remember that Fifth Edition doesn't include magic items in its maths, so even were the monster to steal a more powerful item from a PC it doesn't necessarily mean the fight becomes harder (particularly if the devil can't attune the item and use it itself).

The Avarice Devil



An avarice devil is a Sin Devil whose role is to inspire feelings of material greed in mortals, and grow existing covetous urges until a mortal becomes a prisoner of their own materialistic urges. Therefore, they reward selfish desires for material things in order to make a sinner covet more and more.

The appearance of an avarice devil is humanoid, but they stand taller than a human at around eight feet in height. The devil possesses three pairs of double-jointed arms, each ending in slender-fingered hands tipped by claw-like nails. Its head is that of a crow, and it possesses horns that sweep back and curl down and forward like those of a mountain sheep. Feathers cover its avian head down to its collarbone and to the small of its back. An avarice devil's skin and feathers are both the colour of polished gold, and its red eyes gleam like rubies.

Avarice devils are typically adorned with fine raiments and jeweled rings. They carry heavy nets that appear to be made of gleaming metal, somehow woven into sturdy thread.

Avarice Devil
Medium fiend, lawful evil

Armor Class

16

Hit Points

214 (33d8 + 66)

Speed

30 ft.
STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
14 (+2) 22 (+6) 15 (+2) 22 (+6) 20 (+5) 24 (+7)

Saving Throws

Dex +10, Con +6, Wis +9

Skills

Deception +11, Insight +9, Persuasion +11

Damage Resistances

cold; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks that aren't silvered

Damage Immunities

fire, poison

Condition Immunities

charmed, exhaustion, frightened, poisoned

Senses

truesight 120 ft.; passive Perception 12

Languages

Infernal, telepathy 120 ft.

Challenge

13 (10,000 XP)

Aura of Covetousness.

Any creature that starts its turn within 20 feet of the avarice devil must make a DC 19 Wisdom saving throw, unless the wrath devil is incapacitated or the devil chooses to omit them from the aura, which it always does for its allies. On a failed save, a target becomes obsessed with a physical object the avarice devil chooses that belongs to the nearest creature other than the avarice devil that the target can see. While so obsessed, the target has disadvantage on all attack rolls and ability checks that don't help it acquire the object of its obsession. In addition it is so distracted that attack rolls against it have advantage, and it has disadvantage on its own saving throws. An affected creature may repeat its saving throw at the end of each of its turns. If a creature's saving throw is successful, the creature is immune to the avarice devil's Aura of Covetousness for the next 24 hours.

Magic Resistance.

The avarice devil has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Magic Weapons.

The avarice devil's weapon attacks are magical.


Actions

Multiattack.

The avarice devil makes one attack with its barbed net, and as many claw attacks as it has empty hands (normally five). It may substitute its covetous grasp for one of its claw attacks.

Claw.

Melee Weapon Attack: +10 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d4 +6) slashing damage.

Barbed adamantine-weave net.

Ranged Weapon Attack: +10 to hit, range 5/15 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d10 +2) piercing damage. A Large or smaller creature hit by the net is restrained until it is freed. The net has no effect on creatures that are formless, or creatures that are Huge or larger. While restrained, a creature takes 5 (1d10) piercing damage at the beginning of each of its turns. A creature can use its action to make a DC 15 Strength check, freeing itself or another creature within its reach on a success, but causing that creature to take 11 (2d10) piercing damage as the barbs are pulled free. A DC 20 Dexterity check made by the creature within the net frees it without incurring any damage.

Dealing 10 slashing damage to the net (AC 15) also frees the creature, but results in 11 (2d10) piercing damage to the creature. The net is also destroyed, but can be repaired by the avarice devil over the course of a short rest. The net is resistant to nonmagical damage.

Covetous Grasp (recharge 5-6).

The avarice devil makes a melee attack with disadvantage using a free hand, for which it has a +10 attack bonus. On a hit, the avarice devil magically steals one object the target is either wielding or wearing on their person. The stolen object disappears from the target and reappears in the equivalent location on the avarice devil's own body. If an avarice devil is already wearing or carrying an item in a particular location (such as a belt on its waist, a crown on its head, or a weapon in a hand), the avarice devil cannot steal an object that would fill it. The avarice devil can immediately begin using any features of an item it steals that don't require attunement. A sentient item that is compatible with the avarice devil's alignment and objectives and prefers the devil to its previous wielder relaxes its attunement requirement, allowing the avarice devil to attune immediately.


Making the Wrath Devil

This time round, I'm making the wrath devil. The image that immediately pops into mind is rather traditional for a devil: red-skinned, bestial, large and imposing. Because I think a creature of rage and vengeance should be able to quickly engage I also imagine wings. It likely also causes fear in those around it. The problem is, all this is stuff that's also true of the Pit Fiend, so the wrath devil needs a few characteristics to set it apart. Lets give it a bull-like head and the wings of a vulture, which are tattered as though by many trials. Blood drips constantly from its eyes and from the tips of its clawed fingers. I imagine the devil having a brute force approach to combat, so but it is still a cunning devil rather than a mindless berserker. Rather than a greataxe, then, I chose to give it a slightly more sophisticated greatsword.

Wrath Made Manifest

Although Sin Devils are all about corruption, the wrath devil is uniquely placed to also be a warrior. A Wrath Devil could serve their Lord just as well in their army as they could corrupting mortal souls, perhaps serving as second in command below a Pit Fiend general.

Although it does step somewhat on the toes of a Pit Fiend, a Fear Aura is just so appropriate for a wrath devil I think it's unavoidable.

One aspect of wrath that I really want to bring to the fore is its manifestation as a force for vengeance. I like the idea that a wrath devil is more powerful against a creature after that creature attempts to harm the devil. With that in mind I designed the following feature:

Vengeance.

By dealing damage to the wrath devil, successfully affecting it with a spell, or imposing a condition upon it, a creature becomes the current target of the wrath devil's vengeance. The wrath devil can Dash as a bonus action as long as the Dash moves it toward the target of its vengeance by the most direct route (it can alter course to move around obstacles or avoid opportunity attacks). Additionally, the wrath devil's greatsword attacks deal an additional 2d6 damage against the current target of its vengeance.

Similarly to the way the avarice devil could inspire material greed, the wrath devil needs to be able to inspire blind, uncontrolled fury. I opted not to make this an aura, given I've already given the devil a fear aura. Instead, it's a single-target ability. Here's what I came up with:

Incite Frenzy (recharge 5-6).

The wrath devil targets a creature within 60 feet who must make a DC 20 Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the target is overcome with feelings of blind rage. On their turn, they drop anything they are carrying that can't be used as a melee weapon, move as fast as they can towards the nearest creature and make as many melee attacks as they can against that creature. The target may repeat its saving throw at the end of each of its turns. If a creature's saving throw is successful, the creature is immune to the wrath devil's Incite Frenzy for the next 24 hours. If an affected creature is restrained, its frenzy ends after 1d4 turns, but it is still vulnerable to further instances of the wrath devil's Incite Frenzy.


Note the option to stop a berserk ally by restraining them somehow. It's not a good option, but it might be better than suffering the continuing onslaught of your own friend.

For its third unique feature, I wanted an interesting way to inflate the wrath devil's own damage. Given its theme, it makes sense for the wrath devil to be a fearsome combatant who is a true terror to face. Somewhere along the way I was grabbed by the idea that it could summon additional floating swords and control them with its mind. It's a striking visual, and seems appropriately scary.

Summon Swords (recharge 5-6).

The wrath devil summons 2d4 flying swords, which are identical to the statistics on page 20 of the Monster Manual except they have a +12 attack bonus (the wrath devil's proficiency and Charisma bonus). The flying swords appear in any unoccupied spaces of the wrath devil's choice within 40 feet of it. They take their own turns on the wrath devil's initiative count, but though they are treated as independent creatures the swords are actually under the wrath devil's control. They cannot take a turn if the devil is stunned or paralyzed, and they disappear if the devil falls unconscious or they move more than 120 feet away from the devil.

The wrath devil can control no more than eight flying swords. If summoning additional flying swords would result in more than six swords existing at one time, the wrath devil can choose to make any number of its current swords disappear as part of this action in order to summon fresh replacements.

Proficiency

As a Greater Devil, the wrath devil probably has a Proficiency of +4 or greater. As I want the wrath devil to excel in combat, I'm going to choose +5 as my starting point.

Movement

It's important that a Wrath Devil strikes fast and can reach any foe. For that reason, I gave it wings and a fly speed of 60 ft.

Abilities

As with the avarice devil, Charisma is important to the wrath devil. Although they create wrath in others, wrath devils themselves don't fight blindly: they can be as cold and calculating as any devil. Their Intelligence and Wisdom are probably a little lower than those of the avarice devil, but they're nothing to sneer at. As large creatures and warriors, wrath devils need a high Strength and Constitution.

As before I assigned the abilities according to my gut:

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
24 (+7) 15 (+2) 22 (+6) 19 (+4) 18 (+4) 24 (+7)


Skills

I've already decided Sin Devils are all proficient in Deception, Persuasion, and Insight to serve them when corrupting mortalkind. It also seems reasonable to give the wrath devil Intimidation.

Saving Throws

Sin devils are Greater Devils almost on par with a Pit Fiend. They deserve a few strong saves. I opted to give them Dexterity, Constitution, and Wisdom to protect them from most of the common threats a higher level party might throw at a Greater Devil.

Resistances, Immunities, and Vulnerabilities

Wrath devils have same resistances and immunities as other devils.

Senses and Languages

Wrath devils have truesight 120 ft.

Wrath devils possess telepathy 120 ft. in addition to Infernal.

Other Special Features

In addition to its Fear Aura and Vengeance, the wrath devil has Magic Resistance and Magic Weapons in common with other devils. This makes for a total of four special features. Its Incite Frenzy and Summon Swords powers are special actions.

Actions

It goes without saying that the wrath devil has a multiattack option, but as it deals a lot of damage per hit (4d6 +7 for a large greatsword, plus an additional 2d6 against the target of its vengeance) and deals a significant amount of damage with its summoned swords, it doesn't need to make many attacks. It can have up to eight flying swords which deal an average of 40 damage per round. Even two attacks with its own greatsword, Its damage per round with all factors included averages 96. This is a lot for a single monster to be dealing on one turn, so two greatsword attacks seems adequate for now.

Putting it together: Offensive Challenge Rating

Assuming the devil can summon all eight sword in its first turn, it deals an average of 40 damage on that turn (with the swords).

On its second turn, it can deal an average of 56 damage itself (4d6 + 7 + 2d6 vengeance, twice) plus 40 damage with its summoned swords. Total: 96

The same is true on the 3rd turn.

(40 + 96 + 96) / 3 = 77.

77 puts the monster's effective OCR at 12, for which the expected attack bonus is +8. Since the monster's Strength is +7 (as is their Charisma, for the purposes of their summoned swords attack bonus) and their Proficiency is +5, their attack bonus is +12, resulting in a two step increase of the monster's OCR to 14.

Truthfully, I'm not sure how strongly Incite Frenzy will factor into the monster's OCR. If it's used on the right target, if that target fails its save, and then continues to fail its save in subsequent rounds, and always assuming its nearest creature is one of its allies, Incite Fury could be an incredible damage boost. Players will naturally do their best to make sure that the nearest creature to a frenzied ally is either the wrath devil or one of its minions. I'm going to speculatively treat it as a further +2 attack bonus, increasing the devil's OCR to 15.

Putting it together: Defensive Challenge Rating

The wrath devil has the same resistances as the avarice devil, resulting in a 1.25 multiplier to its hit points.

The devil also has a Fear Aura. We can treat this as though it were a dragon's Frightful Presence. Monster Features tells us Frightful Presence increases a monster's effective hit points by 25% but only if the monster is CR 10 or lower. Fear Aura therefore has no impact on the CR.

The wrath devil also possesses magic resistance, which we know is equivalent to a +2 AC.

We don't have to factor the hit points of the summoned flying swords into the equation. Why? Because we're assuming that they're always around when calculating our OCR.

We already know the monster's OCR is 15. I decide to aim for an equivalent DCR. After all, it makes sense to me that as probably the fiercest combatant out of all the sin devils the wrath devil should be one of the most dangerous of them to face.

The Monster Statistics by Challenge Rating table tells us that appropriate hit points for CR 15 are 281-295.

As we did with the avarice devil, to factor in the devil's resistance we need to figure out a number that is lower than that range and that when multiplied by a quarter of itself arrives at a total in the range.

Given the top of the range is 290, 230 seems like it should work out. 230 divided by 4 is 57.5. 230 plus 57.5 is 287.5, right in the middle of the target range.

Since the wrath devil is large it has d10 hit dice averaging 5.5 hit points, and adds +6 to each one from its Constitution bonus. Therefore each hit die is worth 11.5. The trick now is to figure out how to arrive at 220 hit points (or close enough to 220 hit points). As a medium creature, the avarice devil would use d8 hit dice. The average of each die is 4.5, and its Con mod for each of those dice is +2. Each die is therefore worth 6.5 hit points.

230 divided by 11.5 turns out to be an exact number: 20!

Therefore, a wrath devil has 230 hit points (20d10 + twenty times its Con bonus, which is 120).

Because we want the wrath devil to have a DCR of 15 exactly, its AC should be whatever is appropriate for that CR. A look at the Monster Statistics by Challenge Rating table shows that an AC of 18 is appropriate for CR 15. Since the wrath devil only has a Dex of +2, that means it has +6 worth of natural armour.

The Wrath Devil

A wrath devil targets mortals who are quick to anger, fanning the flames of their rage until it consumes them and all around them. The most ambitious wrath devils choose instead to target lovers of peace, setting obstacles in their path that test their patience and turn once benign, forgiving mindsets to crave darker satisfactions.

A wrath devil is a large, imposing fiend. Humanoid in form but inhumanly powerful of build, the wrath devil is covered in tough reptilian scales of a deep crimson and possesses a pair of large wings. They are sometimes mistaken for pit fiends by those who have no reason to know the difference, but several characteristics mark wrath devils as different from the fiendish generals. It walks on digitigrade legs like those of a great cat, it has the head and horns of a great bull, and it flies using tattered feathered wings like those of a vulture. Blood weeps constantly from a wrath devil's eyes, and the foul ichor drips from the tips of its clawed fingers as well.

The wrath devil carries a large greatsword that only a creature of its significant bulk could hope to wield.

Wrath Devil
Large fiend, lawful evil

Armor Class

18 (natural armor)

Hit Points

230 (20d10 + 120)

Speed

40 ft., fly 60 ft.
STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
24 (+7) 15 (+2) 22 (+6) 19 (+4) 18 (+4) 24 (+7)

Saving Throws

Dex +7, Con +11, Wis +9

Skills

Deception +12, Insight +9, Intimidation +12, Persuasion +12

Damage Resistances

cold; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from nonmagical attacks that aren't silvered

Damage Immunities

fire, poison

Condition Immunities

charmed, exhaustion, frightened, poisoned

Senses

truesight 120 ft.; passive Perception 12

Languages

Infernal, telepathy 120 ft.

Challenge

15 (13,000 XP)

Fear Aura.

Any creature hostile to the wrath devil that starts its turn within 20 feet of the wrath devil must make a DC 20 Wisdom saving throw, unless the wrath devil is incapacitated. On a failed save, the creature is frightened until the start of its next turn. If a creature's saving throw is successful, the creature is immune to the wrath devil's Fear Aura for the next 24 hours.

Magic Resistance.

The wrath devil has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Magic Weapons.

The wrath devil's weapon attacks are magical.

Vengeance.

By dealing damage to the wrath devil, successfully affecting it with a spell, or imposing a condition upon it, a creature becomes the current target of the wrath devil's vengeance. The wrath devil can Dash as a bonus action as long as the Dash moves it toward the target of its vengeance by the most direct route (it can alter course to move around obstacles or avoid opportunity attacks). Additionally, the wrath devil's greatsword attacks deal an additional 2d6 damage against the current target of its vengeance.

Actions

Multiattack.

The wrath devil makes two attacks with its greatsword.

Greatsword.

Melee Weapon Attack: +12 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 21 (4d6 +7) slashing damage.

Incite Frenzy (recharge 5-6).

The wrath devil targets a creature within 60 feet who must make a DC 20 Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the target is overcome with feelings of blind rage. On their turn, they drop anything they are carrying that can't be used as a melee weapon, move as fast as they can towards the nearest creature and make as many melee attacks as they can against that creature. The target may repeat its saving throw at the end of each of its turns. If a creature's saving throw is successful, the creature is immune to the wrath devil's Incite Frenzy for the next 24 hours. If an affected creature is restrained, its frenzy ends after 1d4 turns, but it is still vulnerable to further instances of the wrath devil's Incite Frenzy.

Summon Swords (recharge 5-6).

The wrath devil summons 2d4 flying swords, which are identical to the statistics on page 20 of the Monster Manual except they have a +12 attack bonus (the wrath devil's proficiency and Charisma bonus). The flying swords appear in any unoccupied spaces of the wrath devil's choice within 40 feet of it. They take their own turns on the wrath devil's initiative count, but though they are treated as independent creatures the swords are actually under the wrath devil's control. They cannot take a turn if the devil is stunned or paralyzed, and they disappear if the devil falls unconscious or they move more than 120 feet away from the devil.

The wrath devil can control no more than eight flying swords. If summoning additional flying swords would result in more than six swords existing at one time, the wrath devil can choose to make any number of its current swords disappear as part of this action in order to summon fresh replacements.


Next time

In the next post of the series I'll be creating two more sin devils, in whichever order inspiration strikes!

Monday, 8 January 2018

5e: Unearthed Arcana 08/01/2018 - Three Subclasses

Happy New Year everyone!

Originally, today's scheduled article was to be about devils. But with the release of a new Unearthed Arcana, I've decided to post about that while it's still relevant, pushing the devil article back to next week.

This will actually mark the first time I've written a post about an Unearthed Arcana article. I don't know yet whether it become a regular thing—in truth, I just felt I had a lot to say about today's release. If my thoughts on the content go over well with you, I may explore future Unearthed Arcana releases going forward.

As though Xanathar's Guide to Everything wasn't providing enough new official character subclass options, to say nothing of the plethora of unofficial products following in its wake (see Xanathar's Lost Notes to Everything Else, Sylgar's Guide to Everything Else, and the Player's Companion; all recently released on DMsGuild and representing 89 subclasses between them), today's Unearthed Arcana introduces three new subclasses to playtest at your tables.

The Circle of Spores

The fluff text of this Circle suggests druids of the Circle embrace the cycle of growth and rot, which makes sense given the ability of fungi to grow and thrive from among dead matter. These druids don't necessarily see undeath as an unnatural state, a philosophy which is very necessary given their 6th-level ability. However, they accept undeath only when it is not attempting to permanently and irrevocably alter the natural cycle. Undead that seek to forever avoid the grave, or to spread further undeath, are the enemies of the Circle of Spores.

This flavour text excites me with strong conceptual possibility. Let's see how well those possibilities are realised on the mechanical side.

Circle Spells

At 2nd level, this Circle is granted access to bonus prepared spells of 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th spell levels. Like the Circle of the Land, the only other druid Circle to grant this characteristic, the Circle of Spores is also given a bonus cantrip. In this case, it must be Chill Touch, which is not normally on the druid list. Chill Touch compares favourably to damaging druid cantrips, since most of your other options deal 1d6 damage not 1d8, except for Poison Spray which deals better damage but has a much more limited range. Although the 1d6 damage cantrips offer rider effects not 1d8 (Chill Touch doesn't unless the target happens to be undead), Chill Touch also has double the range of the previously best ranged Druid cantrip. Necrotic damage is also not-oft resisted. It's a strong option when compared to other choices, basically, but one extra cantrip is not going to break the balance of a class.

Looking ahead, it seems that Circle of Spores is given some encouragement not to Wild Shape, so may get more use out of this extra cantrip than you might suppose. However, the subclass features also suggest a melee focus, so that extra 60 ft. of range will only be situationally useful. More often than not, a Circle of Spores druid is probably more likely cast Poison Spray.

The Circle's 3rd level spells are gentle repose and ray of enfeeblement. At 5th level, they automatically prepare animate dead and gaseous form. At 7th, they get blight and confusion. Finally at 9th, they receive cloudkill and contagion. All these spells seem on-theme to me. Even better, with the exception of blight, confusion, and contagion, the list is full of spells a druid normally has no access to.

Halo of Spores

First things first, this feature's name is misleading. Although it suggests a circle or aura of spores around you, in fact this feature is a single-target ability. A name such as "Puff of Spores" might more accurately evoke what is actually happening with this feature.

You can use your reaction on your turn to deal a small amount of poison damage to one creature you see within 10 feet. It amount to an extra 3 damage per turn per heroic tier, increasing to 6 at 6th level, 9 at 10th, and 12 at 14th, at the expense of your reaction which you have little use for in many circumstances. Saving the reaction for an opportunity attack is likely a better choice at lower levels, but only if you're confident you'll get one. Any other time, this is guaranteed extra damage on every turn, and that's nothing to sneer at.

Symbiotic Entity

If you thought that was it for 2nd-level features, you're mistaken. This is an archetype that's frontloaded.

This feature gives you a new way to use your Wild Shape more in keeping with the theme of your Circle. Instead of transforming into an animal, when you spend your Wild Shape you awaken spores infused within you. There's a great visual here: I'm imagining mushrooms suddenly sprouting on your body. These symbiotes offer a number of benefits to you, including a buffer against harm and poisonous attacks. you gain a buffer of 3 temporary hit points per class level, you deal double damage with your Halo of Spores, and all your weapon attacks deal an extra 1d6 poison damage for ten minutes.

Just from eyeballing it, this seems highly competitive compared to a regular Wild Shape, meaning you'll only rarely want to turn into an animal. The wolf and brown bear, two of the best available wild shapes, offer only 11 hit points each (in other words, 22 hit points per short rest or between 44-66 per long rest). A brown bear can deal an average of 19 damage per round, plus a possible opportunity attack for another 11 if you're lucky. Your attack bonuses as a bear are capped at +5.

By comparison, you'll be exceeding the hit point buffer by 3rd-level and eventually far outstripping it. At 10th-level you'll be netting 30 hit points per short rest (or 60-90 per long), by 20th-level that'll be 60 per short rest(in other words 120-180 per long rest).

Using shillelagh, you'll deal 1d8 + Wisdom magical bludgeoning damage plus 1d6 poison damage plus your doubled Halo of Spores (6 to begin with, ultimately increasing to 24 at 14th-level). When you first pick this archetype, your average damage per round is 16, by the end of your career it'll be 33. And you'll be using your own Proficiency + Wisdom bonus for your shillelagh attacks.

But does this compare well to Circle of the Moon Wild Shape? Actually, yes. With the right animal, Circle of the Moon is certainly stronger A Circle of the Moon druid could, for instance, become a CR 6 mammoth 4+ times each day (126 hit points each time, plus 29 average damage with a +10 attack bonus). So that's slightly less damage but about double the hit points buffer. But consider the limitations of being in animal form compared to your normal form, not least of which is freedom to cast spells. Also consider the fact that a melee-built Circle of Spores druid will almost certainly have a better AC than a Wild Shape form (14 + Dex from Hide armour and Shield, at minimum). All in all, I would consider the Circle of Spores to be a strong competitor when choosing which druid subclass you want to use for a melee build.

Fungal Infestation

Okay, this is a fun one. At 6th-level, you get to create your own cordyceps zombies straight out of The Last of Us. Whenever you kill a creature using damage from your Halo of Spores, that creature becomes a 1 hit point zombie under your control.

"When you slay" features are always a bit iffy, because guaranteeing your character gets the kill shot can be difficult. In this case, however, the damage you deal with Halo of Spores increases with level, and you also double your damage whenever you use Symbiotic Entity. As you grow in power, your chances of getting to create at least one zombie in a combat also grow. Even so, will it happen as much as you'd like? Probably not. Playtesting will probably reveal how useful this feature actually is, but I strongly suspect 1 hit point is inadequate considering how rarely you'll actually get to create the zombie.

Spreading Spores

This is the area attack that Halo of Spores looked like it would be. Well, kind of. Rather than an aura around yourself, you throw fungal spores into a 10-foot cube up to 30 feet away.

The spores last for a minute, and a creature that starts its turn in that area takes your Halo damage. In theory, then, this is a means by which you could create more than one zombie. In practice, a 10-foot cube rarely contains more than 2 creatures, when it does, 1 of them is probably an ally, and situations where you can force creatures to remain within the area for more than one turn are limited. On the bright side, you can use this ability again and again as a bonus action (the last cube vanishes when you make a new one) meaning it is almost always superior to use Spreading Spores over Halo of Spores, unless you can't avoid putting an ally in the target area.

Fungal Body

The 14th-level ability alters your body to permanently prevent you from suffering from any of the following conditions: blinded, deafened, frightened, or poisoned. Furthermore, you don't take extra damage on a critical hit.

There is only one word for this feature: WOW. As a player, this is very attractive. As a DM, I'm skeptical. 5e's combat is not so chock-full of exciting options that it can afford to be so free with abilities that prevent interesting things happening, in my opinion. One condition immunity, or even two, is more than enough for a class to be granting. Four seems overkill (although, to be fair, deafened rarely comes up). Not taking crit damage is super strong. This feature is probably too good, but it certainly cements the archetype's role as a front-line combatant.

Conclusion

I'm a bit wary of that last feature and I think some of the other features could use some work (I'd like to see the Spore Halo as more of an aura, and I think zombies will be rare enough that 1 hit point before they die might be on the harsh side). On the whole though, I really like this archetype and its story potential. I'm not much of one for playing casters, but this subclass is giving me ideas about changing my ways just once.

Brute

With a name like Brute you'd expect this archetype to be a straightforward workhorse of a subclass. You'd be right. There's not much in the way of fluff, but there's not much to the concept. Plain and simple, a Brute is all about physical power.

Brute Force

At 3rd-level, you deal extra damage with a weapon attack. This extra damage starts with 1d4 and scales up a die size at 10th-, 16th-, and 20th-levels. This is simply superior to a Champion's Improved/Superior Critical. One die of extra damage on every hit, even when it's 1d4, is always better than twice damage dice on a critical, even if the chances of that critical are slightly improved. Assuming a 2d6 weapon and a Strength bonus of +3, a Brute's average damage on a regular attack is 12 (2d6 + 3 + 1d4) and their average damage on a critical, which happens one time out of 20, is 21 (4d6 + 3 + 2d4). The Brute's average damage per attack is 12. I won't list out all the attack and crit damages for the Brute as the extra damage die scales, but it's enough to know that the average damage per attack goes up by 1 each time (13 for 1d6, 14 for 1d8, and 15 for 1d10).

By contrast, a Champion deals 10 (2d6 + 3) damage per attack, except on a critical which happens two times out of 20, when they deal 17 (4d6 + 3) damage. Their average damage per attack is 11. Superior Critical fails to increase their average damage per attack by even a full point.

This is not necessarily proof that the Brute is too strong, so much as it stands as evidence that the Champion's main feature is actually underwhelming.

Brutal Durability

The 7th-level feature lets you add 1d6 to any saving throw you make. Think about that another way: an average of +3 is equivalent to your current Proficiency bonus (or half your ultimate Proficiency bonus) to all six saving throws, plus death saving throws. Make no mistake, this is a huge feature with this alone. On top of that, if your bonus 1d6 increases a death saving throw to 20 or over, you're treated as though you rolled a 20 on the die, which means you'll gain 1 hit point and be back in the fight.

By contrast, at this level the Champion is adding half their Proficiency bonus, rounded up (currently +2) to physical ability checks and getting to jump a little further. Heroic, certainly, but from a practical point of view you're probably better off with the bonuses that keep you alive over the ones that let you scale a cliff or hop a fence a little better than you otherwise would.

Additional Fighting Style

Pretty standard for 10th-level, you get to pick a second fighting style.

Devastating Critical

I've already pointed out that Brute Force is objectively superior to the Champion's Improved Critical and Superior Critical combined. Get ready for insult to be added to injury. Devastating Critical is gained at the same level the Champion would gain Superior Critical. Not only does the Brute have superior damage overall, whenever they do score a critical they now add extra damage equal to their class level.

Survivor

Finally, at 18th-level, you gain the exact same feature that the Champion does at this level.

Conclusion

So, this archetype is so similar yet so superior to the Champion that it basically puts the Champion in its grave. The Champion has been much maligned since the release of 5e, to the point where this looks a lot like an attempt to develop a fix for it trying to fly under the radar in disguise as a new subclass for whatever reason.

If I'm wrong and the Brute is actually intended to stand alongside the Champion rather than replace it, then it needs a lot of work. More effort needs to be put in to justify it existing as a separate concept, at present it's just too similar, and overshadows the Champion completely.

School of Invention

The fluff for this wizard tradition says that it's all about pushing the limits of magical understanding and experimenting with new ways to cast spells. Cutting edge, experimental magic sounds exciting, and is something I've explored myself with my own Hedge Wizard. Unfortunately, the flavour text soon reveals that Wizards of the Coast have an extremely narrow idea of what experimenting with magic means—and to them it means combining magic with technology. I thought that was what the Artificer class they're working on was for?

Well, let's see what the archetype actually delivers:

Tools of the Inventor

The wizard gains proficiency with two tools.

Arcanomechanical Armor

The Inventor makes a set of arcane armour that only they can attune to. Basically it's studded leather armour which also grants force damage resistance.

If it's not already clear, I'm not keen on the thematic direction this archetype has been taken. But even assuming I liked the idea of a second gadgeteer other than the Artificer, I wouldn't be keen on the blanket assumption that every single member of this school makes armour. I'd want a choice of gadgets.

Aside from this, it's not really a very good feature. You'll still be wanting to cast mage armor (13 + Dex AC beats 12 + Dex AX, and you'll still be able to benefit from the force resistance), and hardly anything actually deals force damage anyway.

Reckless Casting

This is also a 2nd-level feature and it's from this point on the archetype begins to address the part of the theme I'm actually interested in: the experimental spells. You can attempt to cast a spell you don't have prepared, from a limited list. The catch? You roll randomly on that list twice, and then pick whichever of the two results you want to use. Even with two chances, the spell you actually get might be wildly inappropriate for your situation. There's also a 1 in 10 possibility of casting two spells at once, or a 1 in 100 possibility of casting nothing. Essentially, it's a tamer version of a wild magic sorcerer.

Thematically, I think this misses the mark by quite a stretch. A wizard inventing a spell on the fly has access to fundamental knowledge. If they want to cast a lightning spell, for instance, it stands to reason that whether the spell works, fizzles, or has an unexpected result, it will at least deal lightning damage. Whereas, the wizard of the School of Invention is not actually inventing. They're not even making educated guesses. They're just saying random words and making random gestures and hoping nothing explodes (or something explodes... you know, depending on the result they were actually hoping for).

Alchemical Casting

The 6th-level feature lets the wizard enhance their spells, ostensibly by channeling it through their arcanomechanical armour. This is kind of weird because both of the ways you can manipulate spells with this feature change the way it deals damage, adding further weight to my feeling that armour shouldn't be the only gadget option. They would suit a weapon better, although images of an Iron Man/Megaman style blaster arm come to mind.

By spending an additional 1st-level spell slot you can change a spell's damage type. By spending an additional 2nd-level spell slot you can deal an additional 2d10 force damage against one of a spell's targets.

These are okay, but the push to make the inventor wizard a blaster seems at odds with their random spellcasting mechanic. One thing to note is that you can use the spell damage switch as a form of damage control to correct a bad Reckless Casting, but since it costs a spell slot to do it you would almost always be better off changing the damage type of a spell you selected yourself specifically for the situation you're in.

Prodigious Inspiration

At 10th-level, the wizard can replace a prepared spell with another from their spellbook as a bonus action. This can be done once per short or long rest.

This is more like it! I like the idea that you can course correct for a unique problem you weren't expecting in your adventuring day.

Controlled Chaos

At 14th-level, the odds of your Reckless Casting gamble skew in your favour. Whatever spell you end up casting, you can at least be comforted in the knowledge that the spell will be one level higher than the slot you used to cast it.

Conclusion

It's probably quite clear that I don't find a lot to like about this archetype. I think experimenting with magic by combining it with material items and experimenting with magical spells are two different themes and should be expressed separately. As I noted, the former should be catered for by the Artificer class. The School of Invention ought to reserve itself for inventive spellcasting alone.

The "let's see what happens" Reckless Casting isn't what I want to see from a creative caster. Conceptually, I think a creative spellcaster should be very knowledgeable about the fundamentals, enough that they can experiment with confidence. I would rather see a system where you choose a base spell and then modify how it works by expending from a pool of points. I've toyed with similar ideas in the past. The aforementioned Hedge Wizard has access to Sorcerer-style metamagic, while my Dragonbound can spend points of Potency to improve their spell-like Breath Abilities in a multitude of ways.

What do you think?

What were your thoughts about today's Unearthed Arcana? Comment on this post to share them!